Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Red State Round Up: Is Colorado's Amendment 62 Showing the Truth about the Anti-Choice Movement?

By Persephone, a pro-choice activist in Colorado

We're dealing with yet another personhood amendment here in Colorado this year. Amendment 62 is essentially a slightly beefed up version of an amendment defeated in 2008 by a margin of 73% to 27%. Hopefully we'll have just as much support this time around, especially since this one would stretch the definition of a person much more than the original to include stem cell research and in-vitro fertilization.

The specifics of this amendment and the controversy surrounding it shed some light on the way the anti-choice movement uses false information and what they're really all about.

Recently the 2010 Colorado Ballot Information Booklet (or Blue Book) was published. This book is provided by the state of Colorado to provide a fair and impartial analysis of each initiated or referred constitutional amendment, law or question on the ballot.

Personhood Colorado, an offshoot of Personhood USA and one of the main groups lobbying for amendment 62, has filed a lawsuit against the Legislative Council of the General Assembly alleging that the Blue Book used false statements and was not fair and impartial as is required by Colorado law.

They claim that none of their arguments were used for the pro side and the arguments presented for the con side were factually inaccurate.

At the Abortion Gang blog, we point out examples of anti-choicers using made up and/or skewed facts to promote their side on a regular basis. Amendment 62 is yet another example of anti-choice lies backed up by the Legislative Council of the General Assembly.

The lawsuit states "the ballot information booklet is, in effect, one big argument against Amendment 62." Could this be because there are no legitimate arguments for passing amendment 62 other than it being a ruse to do away with reproductive freedom?

I tried to find the pro-62 arguments that Personhood Colorado gave to the council but was unable to. I did however find the points that they claim are false in the anti-62 arguments.

According to Personhood Colorado's Scare Tactics Page the following include some of the misinformation being presented in the blue book.

It won’t ban contraception - They claim that the statement that amendment 62 will ban contraception is wrong because the term contraception has been skewed to include hormonal birth control methods. Since Personhood Colorado believes that hormonal birth control isn't actually a contraception, they claim the statement is false. The fact still remains that amendment 62 will outlaw all forms of birth control other than barrier methods.

It won’t ban or penalize in vitro fertilization - However, it will totally remake the program so that clinics can no longer create extra embryos making the process more difficult and much more expensive.

It won’t threaten the death penalty on doctors who do legitimate invasive surgery that could unintentionally harm a child in the womb - First, I don't know where they came up with the death penalty addition here. The blue book actually states that doctors can be penalized, not put to death. According to Personhood Colorado, "in those extremely rare situations where a woman needs treatment that might unintentionally result in the death of the child, the doctor would not have acted with intent to kill or even harm the child, but with intent to cure the mother." My question is how do they expect that this can be regulated? Since PC considers these instances rare, if a doctor preforms too many of these procedures will they then be investigated or penalized?

It won’t open the door to criminal investigations of women who miscarry - Just like the situation above, I wonder how this will be regulated. Again, if a woman has too many miscarriages will she then be put through an investigation?

So, in a nutshell this is what I got from the scare tactics page:

  • All forms of birth control other than barrier methods will be outlawed
  • In-Vitro Fertilization will be revamped, making it more difficult and more expensive
  • Women who miscarry and doctors providing legal medical procedures could be open to legal investigations
  • Ectopic pregnancies can be terminated with no new regulations
  • Abortion will be made illegal
  • Chemical "abortifacients" will be made illegal, and because antis (wrongly) consider hormonal birth control an abortifacient, this makes hormonal birth control illegal
  • Human embryonic stem cell research will be made illegal

So, What's the Real Motivation?

If amendment 62 is passed, we will still have a case of the inalienable rights of a woman versus the inalienable rights of the fetus. And since it's the fetus that requires the use of the woman's body to live, the woman should have the right to maintain her bodily autonomy.

The fact that anti-choicers aren't fighting the rights of parents to refuse to give blood, bone marrow, organs, etc to save the life of their child once it's born, is a strong indicator that it's really not about the life of the child for them, but rather punishing women for being sexually active.

A Bonus Dose of Racism from Personhood USA

And as an added bonus, here's a really disturbing and problematic statement from Keith Mason, the President for Personhood USA during the amendment 62 debate.

I think it's important to note with the term fertilized egg, that's the same thing as using the N-word for an African American, because it's a dehumanizing term and it's not based in science. The term would be a zygote, or an embryo, speaking of a unique individual.

Learn More About Amendment 62

(Cross posted at the abortion gang)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Red State Round-Up: Virginia

Written by Katie O'Connell, intern at a pro-choice organization in Virginia and contributing blogger, Shout Out! JMU

Up until last year I had never heard of a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC), which is funny, considering that there are 52 operating in Virginia, 38 of which receive state funding from ‘Choose Life’ license plates. In contrast, there are only 21 offices providing abortion services to the women of Virginia, 17 of which could be shut down if anti-choice zealots pursue targeted regulations through the state Board of Health. CPCs, for those who don’t know what they are, are unlicensed anti-choice, pro-abstinence facilities posing as medical clinics which exist solely to dissuade women from choosing abortion. In order to do so, they engage in misinformation and manipulation of women who may find themselves in a confusing and emotional situation. Frequently, it seems the pregnant woman’s ability to make her own informed choice is of little consequence, and they will do whatever they can to convince her to carry the pregnancy to term. Often CPCs list their services under “abortion” in the Yellow Pages so that women seeking abortions will end up going to them instead of a comprehensive women’s health clinic. Many of them advertise “post-abortion trauma syndrome” in their literature, saying that women may feel guilty or suicidal after having an abortion. One pamphlet used by CPCs entitled, “The Condom: Do Condoms Make Sex Safer?” states that “to date, there is no evidence that consistent use of condoms during oral sex reduces your chance of getting most STIs, including HIV” (Life Cycle Books). Much of what they do is steeped in a right-wing Christian agenda that strips women of reproductive choice and bodily autonomy.

I wanted to find out more about CPCs myself, from firsthand experience, so a friend and I decided to pose as a couple facing a possible unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. Since we attend James Madison University in Harrisonburg, we visited the local CPC (tagline: You Have More Choices than You Think), which was surreal—I was nervous that I’d slip up or seem suspicious, and I had no idea what to expect. I was assured during my training that my nervousness was actually a good thing, since any pregnant woman entering the clinic would probably be more freaked out than I was. Calligraphic bible verses and framed words like “peace” were the main decorative motif. Religious paraphernalia aside, the facility looked like a typical doctor’s office—reception window up front, pale green walls, and light-colored wicker furniture. Pictures of landscapes and flowers adorned the walls of the hallway. I had already been briefed on how things were going to go, since most CPCs follow the same basic formula: check in, pregnancy test, “options counseling,” and then results. After checking in I was required to fill out a form asking medical information, along with several probing questions about my views on abortion. For one such multiple choice question, the leading answers were “a) I think abortion is morally wrong, b) I’m not sure, and c) abortion is okay…” My male friend who had accompanied me to pose as my boyfriend was also required to fill out a form, since they had offered to counsel him as well. After a few minutes in the admittedly calming waiting room, their (licensed) nurse took me to the bathroom where I was instructed to pee in a cup, leave the urine sample on the bathroom counter, and then go into the room where I would be counseled.

The woman who counseled me came in a few minutes after I did and talked in a quiet soothing voice the entire time. Possibly the most infuriating thing about the visit was that she didn’t seem to actually know much about what I was asking her. Not only was she providing me with inaccurate medical information, she was mostly just reading it to me from various pamphlets and offering up vague anecdotes about women she had met. Additionally, the pamphlets did not provide much clearer information. “Before You Decide” contains what has become my favorite statistic of all time: “Use of the abortion pill has resulted in the death of a number of women due to sepsis.” I can’t believe that they would tout something so vague as a believable statistic—two is a number, but so is 200. Clearly the literature is meant only to scare women who seek abortion, as opposed to providing accurate medical information. As soon as she sat down the nurse fumbled with a “pregnancy wheel” in order to determine how far along I was (despite the fact that we didn’t even have the results of the test yet), and initially came to the conclusion, judging from my last period, that I was 10 weeks along before recanting and saying I was only seven weeks along. I asked her about the abortion pill (RU-486), and she told me that I was too far along to take it (I wasn’t – see heading What Is the Abortion Pill), and then pulled out another pamphlet, specific to RU-486. Opening the booklet to a picture of a forlorn looking blonde, she looked at me and said, “See? She looks sad… I think she really regrets her decision now.” The CPC places a heavy emphasis on the horrors of “post-abortion trauma syndrome,” which is evident in their campus advertising (“Had an abortion? Feeling scared? Nervous? Guilty? Suicidal?”), and their in-clinic talking points. She informed me that some women can have an abortion and seem totally fine, but 10 years down the road they’ll end up fraught with guilt and inner turmoil. She also said that women in her generation who had had abortions ended up with infertility later in life.

Eventually, the nurse came in to give me my results and answer any other medical questions I had. When I asked her about abortion side effects, she explained to me that most women hemorrhage after having abortions, that infertility and breast cancer are common side effects, and that the uterus is frequently perforated—all blatantly false statements. Later I asked whether or not they provide contraceptives, and I was handed a pamphlet about the inadequacies of condoms, and another pamphlet declaring that “the only safe sex is no sex until faithful married sex.” Abstinence only until marriage is a core value at CPCs, and after my negative pregnancy test result came back, my counselor said, “Now that you’re feeling so good about this result, why don’t we bring your boyfriend in to have a little discussion about your relationship?” She spent another 25 to 30 minutes with my friend and me pressuring us to promise abstinence, even telling us that having sex before marriage with someone other than your eventual spouse is akin to infidelity. At the end of this counseling session, my counselor informed me that she actually teaches a family life class at my university, which was not particularly reassuring about the unbiased quality of the education that myself and other students receive.

After my visit I flipped through all the literature that my friend and I had been given. The emotionally manipulative techniques are still unfathomable to me—I can’t believe that anyone would lie about someone else’s reproductive health just to push along their own political agenda. Not to mention, the paternalistic and misogynistic literature my male friend received was unbelievable. One pamphlet has an entire section on the apparent “Double Standard” of abortion—that when men push women to have abortions it’s seen as coercive and abusive, but when women choose abortion it’s an expression of freedom. Sorry to shake up your whole worldview, Life Cycle Books, but abortion is not about men, and not about the “Forgotten Fathers of Abortion.” It’s about women making very real medical decisions about their own body, and the fact that they should be able to do so without fearing stigmatization and shame from society. After this experience I began working with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia on a campaign called “Support without Shame” because women need to have bodily autonomy and make crucial decisions for themselves. The Support without Shame campaign is not attempting to shut down CPCs. We just believe that all women facing unintended pregnancies deserve respect, freedom from shame and guilt, and access to unbiased medically accurate and science based information regarding ALL options. Women should be trusted with their own bodies. It’s not as if there are laws on the books constantly governing what men do with their bodies. At the CPC, I was stressed and upset as someone who wasn’t pregnant, and who was actually expecting to be manipulated and lied to. I can’t imagine what this would be like for an unsuspecting and vulnerable pregnant woman who believes what she is being told by people who can barely keep their own information straight.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Stopping Anti-Choice Terrorism: Where Do We Go From Here?

Written by Steph Herold, Social Media Strategist for Trust Women PAC

Last week, anti-choice zealot and violence enthusiast Justin Carl Moose was arrested in North Carolina for providing information to create explosives designed to blow up an abortion clinic. Thankfully, he was caught before any harm was done to the clinic, staff, and patients, but if it wasn’t for Facebook, he might have gone unnoticed.

A week or two ago, I received what I thought was an innocent instant message: a friend asking for quick advice. Thinking it was going to be about roommate drama or boy issues, I said yes and expected to get back to my own work in a few minutes. What I didn’t anticipate was that my friend, who works at a prominent pro-choice organization, was dealing with an anti-choice zealot on Facebook, a possible terrorist, and was looking to me to help her decide the right course of action to take.

I took a look at the offenders’ Facebook profile, on which he had listed such aphorisms as “end abortion by any means necessary and at any cost” and “save a life, shoot an abortionist.” Seeing these shockingly violent aspirations stated so bluntly with such pride gave me chills. My friend shared that he wrote threatening messages on the Facebook page of her place of employment, which is what led her to his profile in the first place.

After skimming through all of the hateful messages on Moose’s profile, I told my friend to contact the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, her local police, and the police in his area. I also suggested she contact the National Abortion Federation and any clinics local to this guy to put them on alert. It turns out that all of these authorities knew about him already and were vigilantly monitoring his activities. While writing violent threats on a pro-choice organization’s Facebook wall isn’t enough to launch a police investigation, it did put them on high alert, which lead to his eventual arrest.

No matter the venue, anti-choice terrorism or threats of violence cannot be ignored. Besides reporting it to the proper authorities, there are a number of other things you can do:

  • Educate your peers about anti-choice violence. Let your friends and family know that abortion providers are in literal danger and that the right for women to make reproductive choices is constantly under siege. The more people that know about it, the more action we can take to prevent it.
  • If you feel safe doing so, write a letter to the editor of your local paper supporting your local abortion provider. Public support is important, especially when abortion is such a stigmatized subject.
  • Become a clinic escort at your local clinic. This allows you to make sure patients and staff get into the clinic despite harassing protesters. This also lets you know exactly what the anti-choice people in your area look like and what activities they participate in, which is useful information should you have to report anything to the police.
  • Write to your elected officials at the local, county and state levels and explain why you support your local abortion providers. Make sure you let policy makers know that you want them to do whatever they can to protect providers in your area.
What are your ideas for stopping anti-choice terrorism?